You've heard it before: If you really want to sleep better, your bedroom needs to function as your sanctuary, a retreat from the stresses and pressures of the day.
But how do you actually go about creating that haven-like sleep environment? The National Sleep Foundation has tips for using all five senses to get it just right. In the slideshow below, we've excerpted some of the best ways to use your sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell and yes, even taste, to make the most sleep-friendly bedroom possible. The click over to the National Sleep Foundation for more in each category.
A great night's sleep can depend on the comfort you feel in your bedroom environment. Many sleep experts say that a cool room, somewhere around 65 degrees, makes for the best sleep. The feel of your mattress, pillows, sheets and pajamas affects the quality of your sleep. Your mattress should be comfortable and supportive so that you wake up feeling rested, not achy or stiff. For more on how your mattress, sheets and pillows affect your sleep and how to dress for sleep, <a href="http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org/touch.php" target="_hplink">click over to the National Sleep Foundation</a>.
A great night's sleep can depend on the visual conditions in your bedroom environment. Have you ever woken up just minutes before your alarm goes off and marveled at your body's sense of time? Humans (and most living creatures) have an internal clock that mirrors nature's cycles of day and night. Sunlight detected by cells in the retina of the eye sends messages to the brain that keep us in a roughly 24-hour pattern. Light in the bedroom (as well as light peeking in from outside) has an impact on the quality of your sleep. Scientists are now finding that light from electronics has the potential to disrupt sleep, because it sends alerting signals to the brain. For more on making your room dark, including keeping gadgets out of the bedroom, <a href="http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org/see.php" target="_hplink">click over to the National Sleep Foundation</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ex_magician/4153722507/" target="_hplink">ex_magician</a></em>
Are noises keeping you awake? While you sleep, your brain continues to register and process sounds on a basic level. Noise can jostle your slumber -- causing you to wake, move, shift between stages of sleep or experience a change in heart rate and blood pressure -- so briefly that you don't remember the next morning. Interestingly, whether or not a sound bothers your sleep depends in part on that sound's personal meaning: Researchers have seen that people are more likely to wake when a sound is relevant or emotionally charged. This is why, for example, a parent could sleep soundly through her partner's snores but wake fully when her baby fusses. For more on white noise, television and managing noise pollution, <a href="http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org/hear.php" target="_hplink">click over to the National Sleep Foundation</a>.
What you breathe while you sleep can affect how you feel the next day. Surrounding yourself with a scent you like could help you drift off, and there is some evidence that certain smells may decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state. In a recent poll, roughly three quarters of people said they get a <a href="http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/bedroompoll/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf" target="_hplink">more comfortable night's sleep on sheets with a fresh scent</a>. For more on how allergies affect sleep, <a href="http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org/smell.php" target="_hplink">click over to the National Sleep Foundation</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gliuoo/2300581450/" target="_hplink">gliuoo</a></em>
In the hours before bed, what you eat and drink can affect your sleep. Foods that may upset your stomach, such as fatty, fried or spicy foods, are best avoided before sleep. Alcohol might help you <em>fall</em> asleep, but it can actually make it harder to sleep through the night and should be avoided in the hours before bed. Caffeine's effect on the body lasts many hours, so it is best not to consume it after the mid-afternoon. For more on what you should and shouldn't eat before bed, <a href="http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org/taste.php" target="_hplink">click over to the National Sleep Foundation</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulaloe/148138443/" target="_hplink">paulaloe</a></em>
For more on sleep, click here.